Camping With Small Children. Yes, it’s possible

We went on our first camping trip of the season this past weekend.

It was mah-ve-lous. Days were a pleasant 83 and nights dipped down to around 64.

It was a great time. Even the smores were perfect.

Do you ever wonder how people with small kids are able to go camping? Do you think it’s impossible? It’s not. With some simple planning, it can go smoothly. 

Here are some of our tips:
(**for the record, we did this with four children – ages 19 months to 8 years**)

    • Find a campground that is close by for your first camping trips. It may just be a mental thing – but it makes it more bearable to go on a short outing when it doesn’t take an entire day to drive there.

The campground we went to was only 20 minutes away.

    • Plan on a short trip (1 –2 nights). It’s much easier to pack for your first trip if you are only packing a couple of simple meals.

Our menu for our one night trip:
lunch – pb&J, chips, juice and fruit
dinner – hot dogs on the grill, mac-n-cheese (the simple kind that comes with the cheese packet [doesn’t require brining milk or butter]), green beans. Smores for dessert
breakfast – instant oatmeal, juice

    • Take lots of Quart or Gallon size freezer bags. They come in handy for many things – storing wet clothes, sealing up open food containers, holding leaf and rock collections.
    • We didn’t take all of our equipment for this trip. It just seemed like a bit of a hassle to take some of the things we didn’t have to have. For instance, a brief listing of what we took:

      our coleman stove,
      2 pots (for boiling macaroni, heating green beans and boiling water for oatmeal),
      a spoon for stirring,
      a strainer for draining macaroni
      can opener,
      lots and lots and lots of plastic cups
      lots of sippy cups for the two littlest
      plastic utensils and paper plates (this, along with taking plenty of cups and such alleviated the need to wash anything – we just rinsed at the spigot [our camp sites all had spigots])
      a larger cooler
      sleeping tent
      eating tent
      table (though most campgrounds have a picnic table at each site)
      table cloth
      lots and lots of towels and rags
      toys for the kids (this was probably the bulk of what we took. We took bikes and skates)
      plenty of clothes for each of us
      plenty of sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, sheets and air mattresses or cots.

    • Pack several outfits for each child for each day. You’ll have a lot more fun if you just resign yourself to the fact that kids will get wet and dirty and let them.
        • If you have a young child (infant to toddler) take a port-a-crib/playpen with you so that the child can have more of a sense of being secure in a new place. Bring along any favorite blankets or toys.
    • Bring something that will keep the kids occupied while you set up camp, or else be prepared for it to take a bit longer.
        • Try to choose a camping spot that is near the bathroom. Obviously, don’t set up right next to it – otherwise you will hear the troops marching to the potty all night long. But be close enough that the little ones can get there as quickly as possible.
    • While you are there, take note of items you might like to have with you the next time you head out to the woods. When you get back, type your list out, print it out and then slip it into a page protector. Use a dry erase marker on it to keep track of what you’ve packed.
        • Consider how any little kids will sit at a table. Will they need to eat in their stroller? Will there boost seat work?
        • Plan on arriving early in the morning so that you can get the kids settled and the camp set up while it is still cool. Plan on breaking down camp early the next morning as well; between breakfast and lunch.

    We arrived around 10:15, a little later than we had intended, but this allowed me to get lunches made for all of the kids. They ate while we unloaded things. The next morning, we ate breakfast, did devotions, let the children play for a bit and then we started breaking things down.

Yep, it was a brief trip. But it allowed us all to get our camping feet wet again for the year. We came back with our sanity intact. AND we had actually gotten away and reconnected. It was a great time.

Camping is fun if you are prepared, so give yourself to plan. But don’t do so much planning that you end up never going. Get out there!

Your turn – Have you camped with young children? Share your tips in comments.


    1. http://The%20Flip%20Flop%20Mamma! says

      I have never been camping with the kids, I can’t even imagine it! Sounds like fun though, maybe we’ll be adventurous this summer :)

    2. http://mikki%20roo says

      Wow, thanks for that! I have, in fact, wondered how people camp with little kids… My hubby is a total non-camper and I haven’t done much either, but I’m determined to get us there this summer! My boys are 5 and 3 so I know they’d love it and they could be a big help already too.

    3. http://T%20with%20Honey says

      We got smart and went camping with my uncle’s family. He has 4 kids ages 8 to 15 yo, all veteran campers and scouts who were more than happy to help watch and entertain our 2.5 yo.

      We were right near the bathrooms – great suggetion! Another really great idea was we created an extra boundary around the campfire with large rocks so Princess would have an extra visual of the ‘do not enter’ danger zone. The other big help was having folding chairs for everyone to sit in around the fire. Princess knew where it was safe and didn’t stray close to the fire even once.

    4. http://amykate says

      We go camping several times a season, including 5 days at Creation East Festival – this year kids are 3 and 5. I think it’ll be easier now that they both ride bikes. We’ve always been tent people, but may buy a pop=up. It’s always an adventure.

    5. http://Angie says

      Great suggestions! I think some of it depends on the child too. My cousins two boys couldn’t be more opposite. With the one she could go camping and he was an angel, with the other – he wasn’t happy no matter where he was!

    6. http://Mike%20VanBibber says

      I remember those days when we were growing up. Mark,You(Karla),and myself. WE were good until thunder storms rolled in.right Karla? Some how we all made it out alright.

    7. http://Musings%20of%20a%20Housewife says

      How fun! We love to camp but have never ventured out with little ones. THanks for the tips!

    8. http://Megan%20(FriedOkra) says

      I’ve never been much of a camper, but all of our neighbors love to go and take their masses of children of all ages. I think Bean would love it but maybe Matthew is TOO young yet. Have you ever camped with a BABY baby? Does that work?

    9. http://Karla says

      Megan, we camped with Declan last year, when he was 9 months old. We forgot our play pen so it was a nightmare keeping him nearby while we were trying to organize things. But he did fabulous this year.

      Kids really do love it.

    10. http://Latte%20Lady says

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      You can pick it up here:

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    11. http://Adrienne says

      We never did big vacations as kids, we went camping EVERY weekend. THere were 5 kids and Mom did all the cooking, homemade spaghetti, casseroles, real food.

      However, I am all camped out and never once took my own kids camping, they are all grown now, and I regret it.

    12. http://emily says

      You do make it sound possible :) Good for you, brave one.

    13. http://Miss%20G says

      We don’t even have kids yet but I’m the “big kid” that my husband is breaking into camping. :) We’ve been once this spring and will go again sometime. Thanks for all of the tips. Kelly

    14. http://The%20kids%20mom says

      We just got back from a weekend camping trip with 2 kids ages 2-5. Beach camping…lots to do, plus a nature center nearby. Bring bubbles, playdoh and glow stick for the night time. We all had fun. Oh yeah, do it with friends, much more fun!

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